(photo credit: REUTERS)
The UK's Labor party suspended veteran member and former London mayor Ken Livingstone on Thursday after he was accused of anti-Semitism over remarks he made that Hitler had supported Zionism "before he went mad."
"Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labor Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute," the British opposition party said in a statement
The former mayor of London accused the "Israel lobby" of executing a smear campaign against its critics by labeling them anti-Semitic, according to the Telegraph
Livingstone, who served as London's mayor from 2000 to 2008, made the comments during an interview on BBC one day after Labor MP Naz Shah was suspended by the political faction
for posting anti-Semitic tropes on social media.
“As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticizes Israeli policy as anti-Semitic," Livingstone said. "I had to put up with 35 years of this," he added.
Shah was suspended from the UK Labor party on Wednesday after it was discovered that in 2014 she posted offensive messages to Facebook which included a call to "relocate Israel to America."
The post published by Shah shows a graphic that suggests a "relocation" plan and is accompanied by the text "solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict." The graphic shows a map of the United States with an inlaid outline of Israel pictured in the middle of the North American country.
"Problem solved and save u bank charges for £3 BILLION you transfer yearly!," Shah wrote in the caption to the post republished by the UK's Independent.
Livingstone insisted that Shah's actions were merely "over the top" but not anti-Semitic.
"The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians," Livingstone said.
Livingstone also offered Hitler's policy of removing Jews from Europe after his 1932 election as justification for Shah's comments.
"Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."
His comments immediately engendered a rash of harsh criticism from Labor members who called for Livingstone's suspension from the party.
Labor's mayoral candidate for London, Sadiq Khan, said that Livingstone's comments were "appalling and inexcusable" and that "there must be no place for this in our Party."
Labor MPs Jess Phillips and Wes Streeting called for him to be suspended from the Labor party, the Telegraph
The Campaign Against anti-Semitism called on the Labor Party to immediately expel Livingstone. "Today he has claimed that Hitler was a Zionist and that anti-Semitism is not racism. Enough is enough. He should not be suspended, he should be expelled today."
The group referred to Livingstone as "a hardened politician who has spent his political career accommodating anti-Semitic extremists and making anti-Semitic gaffes. Jeremy Corbyn should understand that zero tolerance for racism is all or nothing, and it is time for Ken Livingstone to be banished or for Corbyn to stop pretending to oppose racism."
Also in response to Livingstone's remarks, Israeli Labor MK Itzik Shmuli slammed UK Labor leader Corbyn over the string of recent incidents of anti-Semitic speech involving people in the party's ranks.
"Labor under the leadership of Corbyn has lost its conscience and its common sense, and if they need history teachers to remind them which insane person fought against Britain, we are prepared to send them one on our dime," Shmuli said.
"There should be criticism of the government's policies which are leading Israel to the tragedy of a bi-national state, but the hatred for Israel is simply blinding some people.,"Shmuli added.
"If our sister party, British Labor, comes out each week with a different member making a disgusting racist comment - who needs enemies," he jested.